Day 1028: Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

Cover for Empty MansionsI’ve been sitting here trying to understand what makes Empty Mansions such an interesting book and what drew me to the topic in the first place. I’m still wondering about that, although the topic was interesting enough to make Bill Dedman’s NBC investigative series popular. (I did not see it.) Perhaps the fascination is with abundant wealth, perhaps one with eccentric personalities. Perhaps it is a sort of voyeurism.

Huguette Clark was the youngest daughter of W. A. Clark, the Copper King, a man who for Samuel Clemens, fairly or unfairly, represented the Gilded Age. Although W. A. Clark’s name is not familiar to us like that of John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie, he was right up there in terms of wealth.

This book tells the story of his life along with that of his daughter, Huguette. An artistic woman but shy, she gradually removed herself from the public eye. Although she owned several beautiful and palatial homes and apartments, she first became almost a shut-away in her New York apartment and then lived in a small hospital room for the last years of her life. Of further interest is the charge that some of Huguette’s caregivers and employees took advantage of her dependence on them to drain her estate. Her estate is currently involved in a suit between the legatees of her will and 19 of her relatives.

The book, written by Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., a cousin who corresponded with Huguette, does a pretty good job of remaining impartial on this point. In any case, I found the story of Huguette’s unusual life to be fascinating.

Related Posts

The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America

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The Invisible Woman: The Story of Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan

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2 thoughts on “Day 1028: Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

  1. Naomi January 21, 2017 / 9:05 pm

    The interesting thing for me is the way she chose to live. (So, I guess eccentric personalities.)

  2. whatmeread January 22, 2017 / 7:03 pm

    Yeah, I figured the hospital might have been a way to get attention without having to socialize.

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